NABOKV-L post 0002416, Sun, 5 Oct 1997 14:02:54 -0700

Re: VN as autobiography? (fwd)
Subject: Re: VN as autobiography?

From: Juan Martinez <>

Agreed. Nabokov and his characters seem to share an eye for sensous
detail, and that's about it. I forget where (it might have been _Strong
Opinions_) he talks about giving his characters bits and pieces of his
childhood Russia, some gardens and villas, but he does make it clear, is
actually very proud, that his characters are *constructs*, that there
wouldn't be any point in writing without the possibility of creating an
entirely separate world, with its own rules and strange vistas.

He is also amused (in or near that same passage) by authors who claim
that characters in their stories take a life of their own, and says that
they're either lying or insane. Which doesn't exactly address how
Nabokov the fictionalist blended with Nabokov the man. My guess is that
they blended quite well, given the evidence.



----Original Message Follows----

From: Tim Henderson <>

As the rankest of amateurs (but I love this stuff dearly!) I have to
to this.

Sure, there's a sense of autobiography everywhere in Nabokov, but in
almost every case (the guy never lets you get away with sweeping
statements) there's a tragic and purely fictitious flaw.
He thinks he's perfect just as he is, or perhaps, he loathes public
introspection. So he invents problems he doesn't have, nightmare
mutations of himself as pedophile, homosexual, fundamentalist,
dimwit, Philistine, madman, criminal, American. He slings himself with
misfortunes like poverty, alcoholism, the deaths of his wife and child,
inescapable terror.

Thus he stays on the solid ground -- his heroes all share the vast
majority of his inner life, and there's no need for any journalistic
immersion in other lifestyles and cultures -- at the same time he has
this tremendous patch of quicksand where he can let his imagination run

The exception I'm thinking of -- I don't see how John Shade has any true
character flaws -- is he the author with an imagined American childhood?

"Speak softly
Drive a Sherman tank,
Laugh hard,
It's a long way to the bank."
---They Might Be Giants, _Rhythm Section Want Ad_

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